MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mayor Joyce Craig has decided which candidate she hopes voters will pick to step into Manchester’s corner office once her term comes to an end.
Craig endorsed Kevin Cavanaugh’s mayoral campaign on Thursday, selecting him over two other Democrats running in the nonpartisan contest.
“Kevin and I have been friends since our time at Memorial High School, and we also share a commitment to making our hometown a stronger place to live and work,” Craig said in a statement. “His experience as a coach, labor leader, and public servant uniquely positions him to bring people together and address the needs of all Manchester residents.”
Cavanaugh, the city’s current Ward 1 alderman, served previously in the New Hampshire Senate. He ran unsuccessfully last fall for a seat on the state’s Executive Council. When he launched his mayoral campaign in April, he was the fourth candidate to do so.
Two fellow Democrats on the city’s board, at-large alderman June Trisciani and Ward 2 alderman Will Stewart, had announced their candidacies in March after Craig said she wouldn’t seek a fourth two-year term.
The only Republican in the race, former congressional staffer and nonprofit leader Jay Ruais, got a head start by declaring his candidacy in February.
Craig — who is exploring a possible bid for New Hampshire governor — praised Cavanaugh’s record, including his work to redevelop underutilized city-owned land and lead union contract negotiations.
“Kevin has the vision to lead our city forward and is the strongest candidate for the November election,” she said. “I look forward to working hard to help ensure he wins this election.”
Cavanaugh, meanwhile, lauded Craig’s approach to the job.
“I am committed to building on the progress made under her historic leadership and working tirelessly to ensure that Manchester remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said.
In response to the endorsement news, Trisciani said on Thursday that she’ll continue sharing her vision for the city, and she expressed confidence in voters to pick someone who will lead with transparency, diligence, and the community’s best interests at heart.
“When I ran citywide in 2021, I was not the establishment’s choice,” Trisciani said. “I won because we spoke with voters of all backgrounds, built a broad coalition, and outworked the field. We will do the same in this campaign.”
Stewart said he doesn’t think the city’s residents will be surprised by Craig’s endorsement of Cavanaugh.
“We are used to election cycles where the mayor’s office is just volleyed back and forth between political insiders,” he said.
Stewart said the city has a choice this cycle: “Pick from the same party establishment candidates who are more focused on those in power in Concord and Washington, or pick someone who’s number one priority is leading our city and delivering results. That’s my track record in Manchester and that’s why I’m running.”
Ruais, whose campaign has been endorsed by former Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, Governor Chris Sununu, and others, said Craig and Cavanaugh have been “lock step” during their time in office. He criticized their recent support for a 3.48 percent budget increase, their handling of homelessness in the city, and their oversight of Manchester’s schools.
“This city is filled with a great deal of promise and potential, and it is clear that we need to chart a different course,” Ruais said. “This race is about the future of Manchester, and I simply have a different view on how we achieve our mutual goal of improving the city.”
There’s still time for more contenders to step forward. The filing deadline is in July.
The two top vote-getters in Manchester’s nonpartisan primary in September will advance to the general election in November. The winner will take office in January.
This story was updated to include a comment from Jay Ruais.